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Posts Tagged ‘setting goals’

Writers and real life …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on November 20, 2010

While I dream of running away and joining a writer’s convent where someone brings me meals and I sit in my room all day long wrestling with my muse, this is not going to happen.

People used to ask me, How do you find the time to write with 6 children and all the volunteer work you do on art’s management committees? And I used to jokingly say it was the writing that kept me sane. (This was true, that was why it was a joke).

Now days I am struggling to get near my computer to write. You’ll all identify with the position I’m in – five kids at home, renovating the house, working part time (except for weeks like last week when I do 12 hour days to get through the marking) and trying to complete three books to hand in to my publisher  early next year.

This morning I sat down at the computer to get stuck into a scene I’ve been having trouble with and I struggled with it.

For one thing the computer room is half dismantled because we’ll be tiling it in a few weeks and we have to move everything out. So there are boxes everywhere and I have to pick my way through them to get to the desk. (I hate working in the middle of a mess. Mess makes me twitchy).

Then, because it was the first time I’d been home all week, everyone came to me. They wanted to show me assignments and ask me questions. (Yes, I love my family but … I couldn’t get any steam up because I was constantly interrupted.

The other thing was I felt utterly flat. The marking I’ve been doing is very challenging (analysing storyboards and explaining why shots and camera movements did or didn’t work and making suggestions to improve them), so I was mentally drained.  My creative well was dry, and I became frustrated with myself because I couldn’t just switch it on at will.

Here are a couple posts I’ve done in the past about creativity. Feeding your creative crucible and Creativity, can it be harnessed? In the end I went out and attacked the weeds in the garden because I had to do something. (And the garden desperately needed weeding. Not only am I a bad mother, I’m a bad gardener!).

The other thing I’ve noticed is that when ever I get to rocky patch with the current book, I’ll slip onto Twitter or I roam the blogs and download my emails. All of which is fun, but it doesn’t get the book written. So I’ve set up a screen and an old computer in my bedroom and I’m going to work there (where there’s no internet). I won’t be tempted to go surfing the web and there’s the added bonus that my bedroom is up stairs and at the far end of the house, so people will have to Really want to talk to me if they want to interrupt me. So, set aside a place that is going to be your writing place and remove temptations such as surfing the internet (and writing blog posts like this one).

Douglas Adams used to say that he loved deadlines. He loved the sound they made as the whooshed by. I’m one of those people who sets themselves deadlines then works like crazy to meet them. (It’s the inner obsessive compulsive in me). So I’m going to set myself a goal because I simply Must meet my deadline. 50 pages cleaned up and edited every week, (except the weeks when I have to do 12 hour days to get through the marking).

I should be able to meet that goal. There’s no point in setting a goal that’s too difficult. You’ll give up before you start. I find that with first draft, if I set myself the goal of four pages of new story a day (that’s 1000 words) the book just grows and grows. There will be days when 4 pages is a challenge and there will be days when I do 20 pages easy. So, if you’re going to set yourself goals make them small and achievable.

Here is a collection of articles on Time Management for Writers. As you can see I’ve already done a couple of the things they suggest.

If you are serious about learning the craft of writing, then you simply must give yourself the time and the room to grow as a writer. You need to be able to experiment and write that weird story that keeps bothering you. An important part of learning is Play and being able to make mistakes. It’s very freeing to give yourself permission to experiment and attempt new things. So there is the craft of writing and then there is the business of writing.  Here is where Holly Lisle answers your questions about the business of writing. Which brings me back to my trilogy and trying to meet a deadline.

There, I’ve admitted I am struggling to get my trilogy cleaned up. The first step is to admit you have problem.

How are you going with your writing? Do you get diverted by Twitter and blogs? Do you get interrupted constantly by children? Are you burnt out from creatively draining paid work?

Do you have any suggestions you could share with me? Really, I’d love to hear how you keep the creative fire alight and get your stories written.

Posted in Creativity, Editing and Revision, Nourish the Writer, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , | 18 Comments »

Nourish the Writer

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on June 5, 2010

This Sunday’s blog is about time management for writers, a request from the Vision writers group.

The picture is from a little book my daughter bought for me called ‘You say I’m a bitch like its a Bad Thing’, written by Ed Polish and Darren Wotz. Lots of 1950s images of housewives combined with catch phrases that have a modern slant. (Some very amusing and rather biting comments). Available from Ten Speed Press.

Sure the women of the 1950s had limited options. But you know something, they weren’t trying to have it all, a job, a family and, if you are a writer, a career as a published author.

Recently, I have been considering running away and I don’t say this lightly. The workload has become ridiculous (I only have myself to blame). My trilogy was accepted and the publishers decided to release the three books a month apart. This is great but it meant editing all three books, each over 100,000 words, in around three months, that’s the three levels of editing, structural, line and copy edit. (I’m racing to complete the last copy edit on book three this weekend). Plus I took on teaching three subjects at work. We run on an accelerated course, so there were assignments to mark every 3 or 4 weeks, sometimes double or triple lots when the three different subjects’ assignments coincided. Plus I set up a national manuscript development workshop for RWA, called the 5DI. (Couldn’t have pulled this off without the women on the team. Romance writers rock, they are so organised and so supportive).  And then there were all the normal things that happen when you have 6 children, with 4 still at home. (Plus I started writing and researching a new series. I know I really am crazy).

So one of the first things that a writer must learn to do is say ‘No’. You can’t be all things to all people. (Took my advice on this one and am only teaching two subjects this trimester).

Not surprisingly there is a lot of advice for time starved writers on the web. Here is an article from Freewriting advice. This is very practical.

And Here’s an article by Chip Scanlan on breaking things down into manageable chunks.

This one looks at the things that take you away from writing. And then lists Ten Tips for Effective Time Management.

And here is a rather nice one with things to do when you don’t feel like writing. This might sound counter intuitive but they are all things that are productive.

When I invited the delightful Sean Williams to talk at EnVision about being a professional writer, he said something I’ve never forgotten. He had accepted a contract to write two books in two years. Then he had a call with the offer to write another two books in the same period. Naturally, he didn’t want to turn them down so he agreed. Then he had the chance to write 2 books for Star Wars, in the SAME time period. And he agreed to do it. By this time all of us were groaning. 6 books in 2 years? Impossible.

(Just emailed Sean to check if my memory was right. It was 6 books in 2.5 years,  a book every months.  He says, ‘I swore I’d never do anything like that again, and apart from the odd book-in-a-month Star Wars deadline, I’ve managed to stick to that. Touchwood!’).

How did Sean do it? He worked out how many words he would have to write, if he wrote every single day and set himself the goal of writing that number of words each day, no matter where he was. So if he was at a Con, he went to his room and wrote. And you know what? He managed to meet his deadlines.

I asked him, ‘What if you went wrong and had to rewrite?’ He grinned and said, ‘I couldn’t go wrong. I had to get it right first time.’ Whew. I still go off in the wrong direction sometimes. But I have adopted his goal. I try to write (on the days that I can) a thousand words a day. That’s not much, just 4 pages. It is amazing how those thousand words mount up.  I wrote 320 pages of a first draft in the first 5 months of this year. (Now I have to go back and tweak them, because the characters have evolved and aren’t comfortable with what I planned for them. Pesky things, characters).

So here’s another tip. Set yourself a goal of writing 1000 words when ever you sit down to write.

And have concrete writing career goals. If you know there is a writing competition coming up, plan to have something ready to submit to it.

At ROR we do something every time we meet up. We set short term goals, long term goals and dream goals.

Short term: What are we going to achieve in the next 6 months?

(Get the new book finished or research for the new series).

Long term: What are we hoping to achieve in the next 3-5 years?

(Finish three books in a the new series. Write a book in a new genre).

Dream goals: What if the Writing Fates smiled on us? What would we like to see happen?

(Write a breakout cross genre book that is as successful as  Stephanie Myer/JK Rowling’s books).

And we ask the ROR Oracle (Marianne after several glasses of wine) to predict what will happen.

We write these down and we review them when we get together. Of course the goals change as our lives change direction.  But the ROR Oracle did predict that Margo would win a World Fantasy Award, which she did. And, since we have been meeting for 9 years now, we’ve seen our goals come to fruition. This is very satisfying.

If you stick to your writing, attend workshops, keep polishing your craft, watch for opportunities, submit, network and keep submitting, you will achieve the holy grail of the writer — publication.

But sometimes when you go to that creative well you discover it has gone dry. You can’t keep churning out stories, working yourself into the ground to meet work deadlines, running the family and doing volunteer work, without putting something back.

You don’t want to burn out. Take a look at your life. Now imagine you are your own best friend and give yourself the advice you would give your best friend. This is why I called this post Nourish the Writer.

To avoid burn out:

You need to do something just for you once a week. What ever it is, don’t let anything else get in the way. This is your time. Be selfish and make sure you get the time to do it. You’ll come back to your family and work a better person, for having had the time away from them.

Learn something new. (What? you say. I’m already over committed. I know but this is important). I’ve been reading a book on the latest understandings on the plasticity of the human brain and how to maintain plasticity as you age. Learning a new skill keeps the brain active. By taking on a new job as an Associate Lecturer, I’ve had to learn a lot of new skills and it has been really good for me.

Actively seek out ways to feed your creativity. Even if you aren’t writing a book on ancient China and you see a documentary coming up on that topic, watch it. Every piece of new information you gain goes into the creative well.  It will help stretch your mind. You’ll make connections with other information and be better able to make intuitive leaps that come while writing. Listen in to conversations on public transport. The things you overhear (especially when people are talking on their mobile phones) are amazing. All of these are insights into human nature. And, when you get the chance, go visit new places. Immerse yourself in other places and other cultures.

From New Scientist, 8 ways to Boost your Creatvitiy.

One of my favourite quotes came from a Time Management talk by Lu Cairncross at a Romance Writers Conference. Imagine 200 women in a room and she says, ‘If it’s not dirty, don’t clean it.’

Sigh. I don’t have that problem any more. I’m afraid my house is dirty and it’s more a matter of  ‘How dirty will I let it get, before I clean it!’  LOL

For me with my large family and the level of commitment I have, the greatest luxury is time alone. Private time when there aren’t demands on me, when my head space is my own — that is really precious.

If you had one day all to yourself and you could do anything you wanted, what would it be?

Posted in Creativity, Nourish the Writer, Publishing Industry, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »